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Ovid: Ars Amatoria

2. Is the Ars Amatoria a pro- or anti-Augustan poem?

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In this lecture, we consider the question ‘Is the Ars Amatoria a pro- or anti-Augustan poem?’, focusing in particular on: (i) the basic tension between the poem’s erotic content and Augustus’ moral legislation; (ii) Mario Labate’s argument that the Ars Amatoria simultaneously celebrates public life in Augustan Rome and the private joys of erotic relationships, as shown by Ovid’s depiction of the Rape of the Sabine Women; (iii) Molly Myerowitz’s argument that the Rape of the Sabine Women is actually an anti-exemplum – an example of what happens when (Roman) men have not learned the art of love from guides such as the Ars Amatoria; (iv) Roy Gibson’s argument that Ovid’s advice concerning what women should wear, how they should style their hair, etc. represents a rejection of Augustus’ moral legislation; (v) Alison Sharrock’s argument that Ovid’s depiction of Venus’ extramarital affair with Mars – and Venus’ husband’s reaction to that affair – represents a rejection of Augustan moral legislation relating; (vi) Duncan Kennedy’s work on the difficulty of pinning down what the terms ‘Augustan’ and ‘anti-Augustan’ actually mean; (vii) Augustus’ own reaction to the Ars Amatoria – as far as we can tell; and (viii) Sharon Marshall’s own view on the question.

Reading list:
– R. Gibson, ‘Ovid, Augustus, and the Politics of Moderation in Ars Amatoria 3’ in S. Green, ed. The Art of Love: Bimillennial Essays on Ovid's Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris (2006), pp. 121-142
– M. Labate, L’arte di farsi amare: Modelli culturali e progetto didascalico nell’elegia ovidiana (1984)
– M. Myerowitz, Ovid’s Games of Love (1985)
– A. Sharrock, ‘Ovid and the Politics of Reading’, Materiali e Discussioni per l’analisi Dei Testi Classici 33 (1994), pp. 97-122


In this course, Dr Sharon Marshall (University of Exeter) explores Ovid’s Ars Amatoria. The course is structured around five critical questions, and in each case Dr Marshall provides a summary of recent scholarship pertaining to the question, as well as a few additional thoughts of her own. The questions are as follows: (1) How successful is the Ars Amatoria as a didactic poem?; (2) Is the Ars Amatoria a pro- or anti-Augustan poem?; (3) Should Book 3 of the Ars Amatoria come as a surprise?; (4) What is the purpose of the mythological exempla in the Ars Amatoria?; and (5) Is the Ars Amatoria sympathetic to women?. Each lecture comes with a short reading list for those that are interested in looking at the scholarship in more detail.


Dr Sharon Marshall is Senior Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter, specialising in Roman epic, love elegy and the Roman novel.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Marshall, S. (2022, July 15). Ovid: Ars Amatoria - Is the Ars Amatoria a pro- or anti-Augustan poem? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Marshall, S. "Ovid: Ars Amatoria – Is the Ars Amatoria a pro- or anti-Augustan poem?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Jul 2022,

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